2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art

Early 2016 sees two major art events fill some of Australia’s most recognisable venues and locations with an ambitious selection of mixed media works. The 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art and the 20th Biennale of Sydney will run during the same period to present projects created by contemporary artists that define their practices.

Presented by the Art Gallery of South Australia, the Adelaide Biennial is the country’s longest-running survey of contemporary art. With a commitment to displaying the best of Australian contemporary art to an audience as broad as possible, the last four biennials have delivered more than 100 Australian contemporary artists to new audiences. The Adelaide Biennial will run as part of the Adelaide Festival of Arts.

‘Magic Object’ is the title given to this year’s Adelaide Biennial, a title composed by Curator and Assistant Director, Lisa Slade.

‘Magic Object’ will see photography, painting, performance, sculpture, installation and the moving image distributed across venues including The Art Gallery of South Australia; the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art; JamFactory; Carrick Hill; and the Santos Museum of Economic Botany in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. With the works of 24 artists spread across the venues, the Adelaide Biennial aims to attract and reach a larger audience than ever before.

The Adelaide Biennial illustrates Slade’s avid interest in the “Wunderkammer”, which translates as “a room of wonders”. This sees the works of the artists in this year’s Biennial venture into places of wonder, curiosity and enchantment. In discussing her abiding obsession with the Wunderkammer, Slade says, “I think it’s something about the desire to grasp the world and hold it close in order to fathom its secrets and mysteries. Within the Wunderkammer objects were endowed with magical properties. Of course, the objects themselves were often latent – their power was derived from what was projected onto them.” Slade views this as the case for contemporary artists who she regards as “modern day magicians” who invest materials with a potency and poetry, and so “the exhibition leaps across 500 years of collecting history to consider the encounter with contemporary art as one that has much in common with the phenomenon of encountering wonder in Wunderkammer.”

She views the artists as contemporary conjurors, who operate similarly to magicians where hard work, repetition, risk and experimentation result in a transformative experience for the viewer.

Featured among the Adelaide Biennial’s artists is Hiromi Tango, who incorporates mediums such as performance and sculpture. Her sculptures are skillfully entwined with carefully chosen materials and objects that deeply plant within the work a symbolic and personal story. ‘Breaking Cycle (lizard tail),’ considers the lizard’s self-defence mechanism of losing its tail to growing another. Tango questions that if people had the power to shed parts of themselves in the same way that the lizard does, could they heal their traumas and regenerate?

Born in 1910, Loongkoonan is one of Australia’s oldest living practising artists. Her paintings depict her travels made on foot over Nyikina country. Her connection to country is cemented in every painting. The colourful compositions of dotted imagery signify prominent features of the land including rivers, mountains and snakes. The paintings act as recordings of the significant knowledge gained from the times that the artist walked the Nyikina country.

A series of photographic images together with works on paper by artist Danie Mellor will be on display. Mellor’s art practice is informed by his Indigenous heritage. He has demonstrated through his imagery the cultural differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia. The works selected for the Adelaide Biennial continue the artist’s consistent use of blue imagery. The layering of flora is imposed against an exposed whitened sky, and the shadowing and scattered lighting illuminates particular areas, sending the viewer’s gaze deeper and further inwards, resulting in a search for something unknown.

Space is a significant contributor in connecting the viewer to each piece. The exhibition is in many ways about space, Slade reveals. “The space between us and objects, the space between artists and audiences and ultimately, the space between us and the world.” When asked how important events such as the Biennial are at widening public engagement with Australian contemporary art, Slade responds, “It’s the charter, the raison d’etre, of the Adelaide Biennial to expand audiences for contemporary Australian art. It is also the motivation behind expanding the presence of the exhibition across the city.”

The 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art centralises on works that raise issues, make statements and inspire ideas. The exhibitions will give a widened understanding and appreciation of the art being produced by Australian and international artists today. Through the events, artists are provided with opportunities to further their practices, realise new projects and widen their exposure to new audiences.  A fulfilling experience awaits those who decide to disconnect briefly from the everyday to cleanse their creative and imaginative perspectives.

Magic Object
2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art
27 February – 15 May


Courtesy the artists and 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art

Latest  /  Most Viewed  /  Related